Holy Spirit as I sit at this groaning table today, looking so much like a Rockwell painting, help me to remember those in this world who are grateful for a simple bowl of rice and a cup of water. I often forget how much I really have and fail to remember those who huddle beneath a simple roof and sleep on a dirt floor.
As I sit in the safety of my home help me to remember there are people who look upon the evening sun grateful just to have survived another day. Help me to be mindful of your great blessings and learn to give more than I receive, to not waste what has been give me, and to share with those who can not help themselves.
Oh Holy Spirit, We thank you, for the feast we spread before us
thank you for the ground it was cradled in,
thank you for the sun and rain that nurtured it
thank you for the farmers who carefully harvested it
thank you for the hands that lovingly prepared it.
May this food feed our bodies
as You feed our souls. Amen
3 A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3
The other Sunday I and a friend of mine were in charge of the coffee hour after worship. It was going to be a cold November day and I wanted to do something different and special for people I care about. Cherry and I talked it over and decided, since there was an Elders meeting after worship, a light meal of homemade soup, salad and bread would be a perfect offering. Cherry decided on making a chicken soup and bringing the rolls. I decided on a vegetarian split pea soup and also brought the salad.
I have read and heard the words of the prophet Isaiah all of my life and have loved many of the songs and chants written around this verse. But as I was preparing the soup for Sunday the words struck me a little deeper. The picture above is the ingredients for my soup. Simple wholesome ingredients; dried split peas, herbs, and garlic and onions, from my own garden, and fresh carrots and celery from the farmers market go into making this really simple soup. (Recipe Below) As I scrubbed the carrots and celery I thought about who would eat my soup and in the process of browning chopped onions and garlic in olive oil the act of making the soup became an act of prayer.
The people who would share in my offering were the people of my faith community and any visitors we might have. People I love and care about, but, more than that, it was an extended sharing from the communion table. The breaking of bread, the ladling of hot soup all became part of the feast Christ sets before us every Sunday.
As a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) we prepare and offer communion every Sunday. We carefully set out bread and cup and share it with each other and as I prepared this simple meal that would be served after worship we were continuing a 2000 year old tradition of breaking bread and pouring cup then going in to share a common meal. That is what the first followers of Jesus did. They shared more than just a piece of bread and thimble full of wine. They shared a whole meal together, rich or poor, aristocrat or tent maker, all ate from the same serving bowl.
I have helped prepare and serve hot meals for the homeless, and I routinely make up food bags to give to the homeless I see on the streets and while I may not sit down with each person I offer food too it is still communion. It is a sharing of food, and drink, and recognizing that what I give doesn’t come from me, but from God, Christ, and Holy Spirit. I am only the servant who is trying to fulfill Christ’s commandment; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. (Matthew 25:35)
In the process of preparing to serve others I am preparing to serve Jesus, to follow, as faithfully as possible, the path Jesus leads me on. I know I will stumble, but Jesus will be there to pick me up; I will wander off the path, but the Holy Spirit will be there to lead me back; and I will grow weary, but God will be there to cradle me in her arms until I am rested.
The spiritual practice I am inviting you to share in this Advent season is to find the sacred in all that you are preparing for your own celebrations. In what ways are you preparing for the Lord in your everyday life? With whom will you celebrate the feast of God? As you await the birth of the Christ child let your preparations become an act of prayer, for those you love and those you may not know.
May the peace of Christ be with you, always
Ruth’s Pea Soup about 8 servings
1 lb. dry green or yellow peas
3 quarts of cold water (or 1 qt vegetable stock and 2 quarts cold water)
1 large carrot, sliced in to small pieces
1 small celery stick chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
1 small onion or 4 large green onions
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped fine
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (I like fresh rosemary, summer savory, and thyme)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Pepper to taste
In the bottom of a large pot sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the turmeric, stir then add the carrots and celery. Add the peas and cold water into a large saucepan; add the herbs and salt to the saucepan; add the pepper to taste. Cook over low to medium heat until the peas are very soft. Remove from the heat and run through a ricer or press through a colander to remove the hulls. Return the soup to the saucepan and heat to eating temperature. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt.
Notes: Use only 1 teaspoon of dried mint or herbs when substituting for fresh. I will use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand but I prefer 1 tablespoon each of fresh thyme and summer savory. If you want a more salty taste you can add a teaspoon of spike or one of the other herbal salt substitutes when cooking. I also like to sprinkle fresh chopped chives (either onion or garlic) over the sour cream or yogurt when serving.
Source: A Ruth Thompson original recipe that I first made sometime in early 1980’s.
I am one of many people who do not look forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas. To me this time of the year represents the loss of way to many people I have cared about. So I usually don’t do much celebration and what I do is forced and tiring. Instead of celebrating the way most people do I have always used this time of year for reflection and giving to those in need.
All year round I practice the Spiritual Practice of giving, donating to those who are in need, but at this time of the year it takes on new meaning and helps with the depression I get every year. I practice this in many different ways; collecting food for the Food Bank, going through my closet and donating clothes I haven’t worn all year to Goodwill or the Salvation army, volunteer at a shelter, gather up grocery bags of food that includes dog food, blankets, caps, gloves and socks and hand them out to the homeless I encounter on the street. All of my giving is anonymous with no concern for what the gift is used for or any expectation of being repaid. And, while I know my small efforts won’t change much doing something for someone else helps me remember how good my life is and that despite feeling depressed I actually have a life worth sharing.
This week’s Spiritual Practice is the Practice of Giving, of sharing from your abundance without strings attached, just giving out of the love you have of God, Christ, Holy Spirit, and all of humanity. I would also like to recommend that this Spiritual Practice of Giving extend through the New Year. Do something each week where you give to those who need it in some way; the food bank, shelters, or someone on the street. Even if all you give is a welcome and a smile that acknowledges the humanity of all people that is more than some people will get all year.
May you find new ways to share your compassion for those in need, giving out of your abundant life to ensure others will have life.
Today is Veterans Day and I would like us to practice Visio Divina using the above pictures by David Bowie of the United Kingdom of Soldiers in the mist that touched me deeply. Take a few moments to study the picture, breathing deeply and begin your Divine Reading. Think of Visio Divina like this–putting on God-glasses to see how an image illuminates Christ for you.
Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors or lack of color, people, places and things. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
Respond to the image with prayer. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
I offer the poem below as a testament to what I “heard and saw” within the photo and my heart; and as an offering to all who have served, fought, and died in conflicts across time and the globe. Peace be unto all
into the smoke
walking to their destiny
they gave their all
of wife and child
of Parent and sibling
The mist is filled with voices
I love you
I miss you
Each voice a prayer
to send them on their way
to let them know
they are not forgotten
they are loved
that all is OK
despite they suffering
despite their sacrifice
hearts send love
no you are not forgotten
you are always with us
in our hearts
in our souls
in the lives you died to protect
go to your rest
knowing we are
the love you gave
the life you gave
We who remain
are blessed by
You who walk
yesterday, today and tomorrow
it is not good-by
it is only until we meet again
Let those whose hearts are chained with hate, fear and greed hear the call of love, courage and generosity. Let the light break the chain of hate for those whose are different, the chain of fear of having a point of view challenged, the chain of greed that locks all out of the heart and feeds hate and fear. Let the light shine and hearts open. Amen
God has many ways to speak to us, through relationships, our experience, what we read and in the images we see every day. Visio Divina, Latin for divine seeing, is praying with an image and listening for what God may say to us through that image.
The above image is an entry, a rather nice entry but just an entrance to some place. Spend 2 or 3 minutes just gazing at the image. Does the picture raise any memories, good or bad? Does it look familiar to someplace you’ve been? Would you like to walk down this hallway? Jot down any words that come to you.
Look deeper into the image is there movement, or do you see artwork? From this perspective where might you believe this entryway leads? What lies at the end of the hallway? Who might you meet? Who would you like to see as you round the corner?
Respond to the image in prayer. Does the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you like to offer a prayer of thanksgiving or intercession? Is there someone who needs your forgiveness, or you need there’s waiting for you? Offer a silent prayer offering your sorrow, or giving your forgiveness. Let God carry your hearts message.
Sit quietly and find your quiet center. Breathe deeply; relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this still moment and let God pray in you; remember God prays beyond words, in sighs and warming of the heart.
As you return to the present, let the prayers go with you throughout your day.